“People sold for sex in this country are American children who are disproportionately black and brown. They are between the ages of 12 and 13 — middle school aged.”
That was a statement from Malika Saadar Sar of Rebecca Project for Human Rights at last year’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Caucus. She is regarded as an anti-trafficking hero for the work she did to shut down Craigslist ads that led to kids being sold for sex. Just a couple weeks ago, I attended a conference and was embarrassed at how little I knew on this issue: the statistics on sex trafficking were so alarming, the only question I had was “Who the heck is publicly speaking up about this?” The unspoken truth is that there are blocks–even communities–of black children straight up MISSING…and very little national noise is being made.
Look at these stats from a recent FBI report:
83 percent of victims of confirmed sex-trafficking cases were U.S. citizens;
40% of victims were black;
62% of suspected perpetrators were black.
Factors like poverty and abuse, as well as aging out of foster care facilities, increase the chances of young girls (and young boys) being lured by traffickers into sex and labor industries. But believe it or not, those are not the only victims. Many of the women we call “video vixens” have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse or assault prior to entering the “business.” And in a culture where the smooth crooning of Drake and his ilk glorify the girl who has to strip her way through college, the line between voluntary and involuntary participation in the sex industry becomes more blurry. (Check out this article called “Human Trafficking Brings Easy Money, Hard Lives for Teenage Girls”). And then there is the collective silence of the “R. Kelly” syndrome.
You done selah-ing? Ok, I’m back.
Can I be real? Our actions, as a community, show that we are failing to adequately protect our children. While we have overcome picking cotton and sitting in the backs of buses, we have not fully ripped off one of the most detrimental badges of slavery: the exploitation, undermining, and minimizing of black sexuality. Even when alarming known acts of sexual indecency occur, we are afraid to call out the Lawrence Taylors of the world. We attend events like the Super Bowl and World Cup–set to be in Brazil this year–where unknown numbers of black girls will be violated and unfortunately unaccounted for once the games are over. Many can still buy an R. Kelly record, and “Step In The Name of Love” at every wedding because frankly–we don’t care or “because his music is still good,” many often say)! Little underdeveloped girls are considered “fast” if caught in the wrong crowds. We ignore the pockets of girls dressed like grown women on the corners of Atlanta, Baltimore, Philly, Houston, and New Orleans. Talk of modern-day “sexual liberation” conveniently leaves out how one girl’s curiosity can often lead to unwanted attention and harsher consequences. We assume that in a day where “we should know better,” little girls lured into the cars of local pimps and celebrity pedophiles deserved what they got–’cause they should know better. So quick to call a woman a “video hoe,” we have no idea–or desire to find out–what trauma she is being subjected to on a daily basis…just to make a couple coins. And with the news of children literally being picked up by strangers at day care, learning, and homeless facilities–like the recent abduction of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd–we are constantly reminded how little value our society places on innocence. (Note: we continue to pray for Relisha, and hope that she is not being subjected to torture or abuse).
I really don’t need to bring a scripture into this, but I do have one that comes to mind. While no longer here on the earth, the blood of Abel cried from the ground to God’s ears. God asked Cain the whereabouts of his brother. When Cain replied to God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” after killing his brother Abel, he did so, not out of curiosity, but out of both indifference and guilt. Are we our brother’s keeper and our sister’s shield? No longer can we be church mothers and fathers waving the church fans of sorrow after a loved one is gone…or indifferent congregants waiting for others to fix our problems. We have to talk…to our family members, especially those uncles that we KNOW our children shouldn’t be around (every family has them, so please, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about)…to our children, about love, identity, poverty (yes, believe or not some kids are really just trying to get something to eat for themselves and families)…to our caretakers, schools, and homeless shelters…to our local law enforcement…to our local legislators..heck, maybe even to our local strip clubs. We have to talk…
This is no longer just an international issue, or an “other” issue. While the ads don’t have kids who look like us on the posters, we need to start creating our own billboards. Our children–black children–are modern day slaves.
Let us not wait for the blood of our still enslaved to cry from the ground any longer.
Shoutout to the many organizations and leaders who are raising the awareness on this issue, and trying to pass meaningful legislation to eradicate this injustice. We need more of you…
Ify Ike is a former Capitol Hill advisor and counsel, with experience on a variety of social justice issues. She is an original blogger of the faith-blog “The Bold and Fabulous,” founder of the policy and communications firm, Ike Professionals, LLC, and has assisted numerous ministries in program creation, youth outreach efforts, community service, and natural disaster relief. At least once a day, you can find her in a debate about politics or religion.